GUEST COLUMNIST | Understanding, then addressing, ‘white privilege’

Related Articles: 

As a white woman, I've had to work hard to understand that I'm privileged in a way that my black brothers and sisters are not. I understand the confusion among many white people about "white privilege." To them, privilege means that individuals or groups receive certain advantages based on occupation or affluence, such as executives who enjoy economic advantages greater than the working class. These positions allow execs to live enviable lifestyles that come with the privilege of "affluence."

These aren't rights; they're entitlements connected to the positions and attainable due to the salaries and responsibilities of those positions. This isn't "white privilege." Black executives, doctors, lawyers, sports figures, etc., also enjoy these economic advantages. Thus, white people, of lower economic status who lack entitlements declare that they "are white, but don't have any special privilege." But let's look at it from a different perspective.

Miriam-Webster's first definition of privilege is "a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others." According to the Cambridge Dictionary, privilege is "a special advantage or authority possessed by a particular person or group." This definition allows us to understand the meaning of "white privilege."

I have never walked into a store — as a white mother of many children — and felt that I was being watched as a potential problem. I have never been followed when I have gone into a shop or walked in the mall, just because of the my skin color.

I have never wondered how a police officer was going to treat me if he pulls me over for speeding, running a red light or stop sign. I have never wondered if I was pulled over because the officer thought I was driving a car out of my league or because of the color of my skin. I have never wondered whether a police officer would draw his weapon when I reach into the glove compartment for my registration and insurance papers.

This peace of mind, freedom from fear, doesn't exist for my black brothers and sisters; sons and daughters. The situations experienced by black neighbors and friends are the opposite of my experience. The black executives, doctors, lawyers, sports figures, etc., mentioned above? They have experienced many of these judgments based merely on the color of their skin.

A good friend who is a retired federal judge — a black woman — doesn't know of any black acquaintance who hasn't been pulled over without cause. An African-American university president was pulled over with an excuse that his tail light was out and given a warning. He stopped a couple blocks away to check; his tail lights were working fine.

This is what "white privilege" means. This inequity is something I have and can't discard, share or opt out. I'm aware I have benefited from it without intent. I don't even know if it is something for which I can apologize.

But I want to correct this. There needs to be culpability and acknowledgement among white people, whether or not we're intentional in our "white privilege."

We need to address our black sisters and brothers, look them straight in the eyes, and ask, "What can I/we do? What will prove to you my/our willingness to stand for your rights and freedom? How can I/we make amends in a world where racism is allowed to exist? Can you forgive me/us?"

Pressimone is pastoral associate at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Clayton. 

Your rating: None Average: 1.2 (37 votes)